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Memorial Weekend Sabine River Trip
by Philip & Tisha Matticks
Old Friends & New Friends with New Adventures;
We have arranged the Sabine Weekend Overnight River Trip for the past four-five years, joining alongside with other adventurous paddling groups. Each year we have seen a high volume of crafts; between 100-125 water crafts.
Upon arriving around 4:00 PM on Friday at Burr Ferry Bridge; to our surprise, we only met one other person to join us that evening, Mike Burns of the Dallas/Fort Worth area. This was Mike’s second year joining us on the river.
Harmon Everett showed up later that evening asking & searching for the Matticks’ in the dark. When he approached our camp site, we could not make out his face until I saw the silhouette crew cut with the moonlight glowing behind him. I asked if he was Harmon and yes it was. Well, it was just too late to shuttle our vehicles to the LA take-out point, so we waited until Saturday to do our shuttle.
There were some other families camping out under the bridge and in the brush. And just like many beach areas, you will encounter a few daredevils. We did later that night while we were all sound asleep! Just to be awakening by the roaring sound of engine. We had no idea it was a Pick-up truck running back and forth on the water’s edge. Amazingly enough he did not get stuck in the sand and when he gunned his truck up the sand hill without flipping his truck, they decided to call it a night. Well, almost! They had the headlights on for some time. They had loud classic rock music and decided to start a huge camp fire! And YES, the area had many posted signs reading Burn Bans… We were the next camp site over from there’s, but we did manage to sleep some. They were just having fun without thinking!
Anyway, the next morning, Saturday, we all got up, had breakfast. We waited for others to arrive. Slowly but surely, some more canoeist did arrive. The Church Group from the Beaumont area arrived renting 17 tandem canoes; this is their 5th year running the Memorial Weekend River Trip. We also met up with four other kayaks passing thru on their own and Aaron & Kelly. This is our second year meeting up with Aaron and our first year meeting Kelly. Joining in on the paddle were other past and present HCC members; Ron & Judy Nunelly arrived and join in on the paddle as they have done so for many, many years since the 70’s, and we also had Bobby, Tim Garber & Bob Pearson join us. We had e-mails from several people earlier in the week and on Friday morning that they simply could not make it. Family matters and other circumstances are unpredictable and quite understandable.
Well, we placed our crafts by the water’s edge with all the gear and waiting for the first shuttle. As the first shuttle got ready to head out, Tim & Mike missed the first shuttle with Danny of LA. Mike’s vehicle was blocked and we did not know who was blocking his vehicle. That was about a 45 minute wait. Then the second shuttle got on its way and Tim almost missed the second shuttle, unfortunately, Mike missed it again. Perhaps one of the families camping on the river had him blocked? Philip & I agreed to shuttle Mike Burns back to the put-in once we finished our weekend trip. By the time the second shuttle arrived back with Tim & Harmon’s video camera, it was about 10:00 AM before we got started.
The water was lower than last year, but still able to float. Of course the trees are still visible and some that are not until you’re right on top of them. But it’s an easy paddle.
We started off fine, but the wind did start picking up to about 25-35 mph. Some handled the wind better than others. I still did not find it to be a hard paddle just a little tiring, paddler’s simply just can’t stop paddling when the wind is attempting to blow you back up river. Harmon took over Tim’s canoe for a short period. Tim’s canoe lacked weight support at the opposite end where one would sit. This can make it a challenge for anyone. Well, Harmon and Tim switched back to their own crafts.
We took a break and started wondering, “Where is Harmon?” Will, he was kind enough to keep up with a canoe being paddled by members of the church group with two young ladies. These young ladies never should have been on this trip! They were running into trees, turning the canoe around, heading the wrong direction; it was obvious they simply did not want to paddle anymore. Anyway, as we were on the sand bar, we could see Harmon’s green and white umbrella coming around the bend. Then we saw no umbrella, no Harmon, but we could see his kayak on the opposite side of the river. We got our binoculars to get a better view. We could see Harmon outside his kayak?? Well, we could see him swimming around his kayak, so Philip & I, as well as Mike, decided to paddle back up river to see what’s going on? Harmon’s umbrella decided to take a nose dive in the deep part of the river’s bend. Harmon tried to recover it and to no avail, it is now history!
The last years have been very colorful with all the different umbrellas on kayaks and canoes, but with the wind this year, that was not possible. Wind or no wind, ALWAYS tie down your umbrella!
We paddled back to the sand bar where Tim was waiting and the young ladies are paddling right behind. They went ahead and passed us up….GOOD! Someone in their group should have long before come looking for them but to this point has not.
We took a break and then paddled some more and took a short lunch/nap break in our chairs. Once we reached our lunch break, we noticed the young ladies just abandoned the canoe on a sand bar and took off walking away from the canoe. Lucky for them, their group just happened to be on that same sand bar at the other end around the bend. Two young men had to walk back to the young ladies canoe and paddle their canoe up river to join the rest of the group.
Later that day we noticed that they split up the two young ladies and placed them with other canoeists. Unfortunately, both canoes have passed us by during breaks and they truly had their work cut out. Imagine a tandem canoe with two older teens, loaded with gear and only one person paddling in the wind? While the other paddles every now and then or leaves the paddle dragging in the water? Like any other sport, you either like it or you don’t!
Due to the high winds, we arrived at our camp site around 4:45 PM. Very unusual, since we normally make our first camp site by around 2:30 PM each year. Philip & I took cover under our normal spot of shaded trees. Harmon joined us as well. However, Mike wanted to get closer to the trees without walking too far. Mike is into Hand Radio’s/Radio Dispatch and he actually took a car size battery, radio equipment, antenna and a bow & arrow to throw his antenna cable over the tree limbs. He decided to place all his gear very close to the river, just as the river begins its turn in the bend.
We all knew that River Authorities were going to release about 3 feet of water Saturday. Aaron and Kelly, they decided to camp above Mike on the ledge. While the others decided to camp out in the open with tents and tarps. Wind, tarps, tents……you could only imagine? But as the saying goes, “Where there is a Will, There is a Way!”
After all was done, we managed to get everything all setup and then we sat and visit for awhile. As always, Philip & I bring more than enough to eat; Sharing is our motto! Alfredo Pasta tonight and some interesting lessons on how to purify water by Harmon Everett:
"Saturday night Harmon brought out my water purification kit and worked up a gallon or so. He has a 3 step process. Harmon lined a collapsible canvas bucket with a new clean garbage bag and filled that with water from the river and pored through a coffee filter. One may add a cloth filter to the coffee filter also. Then, once the canvas bucket is filled with filtered water, get out a Katelyn Pump Filter which is advertised as providing 99.9 percent clean water, down to 3 microns. Pump this super filtered water into an old style Gatorade bottle, with the wide mouth. It is the right size to use a Steripen Ultraviolet Water Purifier to kill off any remaining bacteria. The whole process took about a half an hour to provide a gallon of cleaned and purified water. This was our dinner and entertainment."As we went to sleep, we had the Cajun Symphony Generator serenading across the way till 3:30 AM as well as their Country Music. Oh Well, the Country Music wasn’t bad! However, we did manage to get some sleep that night, although, the dew fell a little heavier that night than on Friday night.
We could see the water had been released and started to rise. But not until the next morning was Mike Burns on his own little island. His tent was completely surrounded by water with about an inch of land all around him. He did not have far to go to load his gear. Harmon took a great picture of Mike’s personal island.
Again, Harmon wanted to try yet another craft. Mike’s very, very narrow racing very light weight transparent We-no-nah canoe with a rudder. The canoe must be packed while it’s in the water, can’t pack it on hard surface or it will crack. Mike found out first hand on another trip. Harmon’s test ride did not last long at all! Approaching the next sand bar we pulled over so Harmon & Mike can switch back to each other’s crafts.
Harmon hardly moved in fear of tipping the We-no-nah canoe. Even Mike told us that if he wants to take a picture, he has to have his bow facing the subject so not to turn his body too much or he will capsize his canoe. Mike said it was a tight squeeze in Harmon’s kayak. Later Mike asked if we wanted to try his canoe. NO WAY! We are very happy with our 17’4" Old Town Canoe.
The wind did die some, but then it would pick up again. When it came to avoiding trees, it was an easier float since they released water. However, it was still tiresome due to the wind, not as windy, but we did not want another workout like Saturday.
We noticed people were stopping and staring at something in the water. It turned out to be a huge alligator on its back. Yes, dead and about 10-12 feet….We did not, OK, I did not care to see a dead alligator up close at all! From a distance, I could see a white belly and I did not need to further inspect. l took Tim & Harmon’s detail description, size, condition and smell!
Again, it’s a great trip, high winds, some pillow waves, low sand bars in shallow water; we zigzagged around the logs and trees throughout the river. Some logs are hard to see, but use caution and care and one can easily paddle this three day adventurous trip.
We made it to our last camp site and this time, we stayed on the sand. We tried and tried to set up our tarp for shade and the wind just would not allow us to. Tim, Harmon & Philip pitched in to help set up our tarp, finally some shade!
Ron and Judy set up all their gear up on the ledge……But that was a good walk! We really need snow shoes to walk in this sand. Anyway, Ms. Judy had made some Jambalaya and offered all of us some. But I think we were too tired to walk all that sand up on the ledge. Once again, we packed too much food. What’s for dinner? Chicken & vegetables, and mash potatoes.
I noticed that Tim was digging around his canoe again that evening as I saw him do the same the night before, I asked Tim, “What he was doing?” Tim read about using your craft as a tent and decided to try it out, as he did on Saturday night. He shoveled sand around the canoe to cover any air pockets and made the hole/bedding deep enough to place his body side ways to even comfortable. Apparently it worked for him on Saturday night so he tried it again on Sunday.
This is a person who for the first time is doing an overnight trip in a canoe. My luck, I ran out of memory in my camera card, so I asked Harmon if he would not mind taking a picture.
Now after eating, the group had an unusual request; Ticks? That’s right; someone in our group could feel something on their back and asked what should we do? Trust me, it wasn’t the cook! But anyway, as one could only guess, all of the sudden; All these doctrines come out, do this, do that and nothing seemed to work. They used rubbing alcohol, medical tick cream, they even considered super glue and some kind of gas……it sounds bad, but you really had to be there, it was too, too funny!
These are not teenagers we are talking about; these are professional college people over 40 years of age! Then one is crazy enough to ask to take a picture of the tick, while the other is crazy enough to allow it. I asked the individual, this is crazy, you do realize we may see it on YOUTUBE one day…..we could not stop laughing, it was hilarious!!!
Back to our trip, we all went to bed, no music, no shouting, no generator…..QUIET!
We decided to get an early start, Philip & I was ready by around 8:00 AM or so, the other’s followed. The wind died down considerably and the water flow was great. On the way down, I saw a huge snapping turtle, but again, my camera was full. So Harmon and Mike went back to take pictures but the turtle went back under water. So Harmon and Mike decided to wait for it to come back up.
The turtle was caught up by an old fish line…..Well; it certainly appeared to be an old fish line. No markings on the fish line, no gallon jug of ownership, etc. After taking the picture, the turtle miraculously released itself back to swim freely in the waters of the Sabine. We paddled some more till we made one last break before the end of the trip. While we were there, the rest of the group caught up with us, as did Aaron and Kelly.
We continued onto our take out, knowing that Danny will be there to help us with all our gear. We paddled some more, wind is easier, hot, but with a cool breeze. Now we reach the muddy waters of the creek that feeds into the Sabine River. Now at this point, you can’t see anything! Black water as we call it.
We get to the take-out and Danny is no where’s to be seen. Aaron & Kelly leased one of his canoes, so you would think Danny would be there? But the church group is not scheduled to show up until around 10:00 or 11:00. So we look at the take out, the hot soft sand and distance to walk up the levy….Ahhhhh
Well, Philip has a 4 x4 Jeep, but the sand is too soft to take chances. We all start unloading our crafts, Aaron had to drive to the state road to get reception to call Danny. We would like to personally thank Kelly for all her hard work in helping us all with our gear……she was a true trooper! Aaron and Kelly made it to the take out first and they had hardly any gear to speak of. And instead of relaxing, she came to our entire rescue and helped out. Thank you again Kelly!
Well, Danny of LA finally shows up after all gear was taken up to the vehicles. The only one left other than the church group was Mike Burns’ gear. We told him, since we have to drive you back to the put-in, just leave your gear at the beach and let’s wait for Danny. Luckily, Danny arrived as everyone started loading all the gear into the vehicles. Danny of LA hauled up all of Mike’s gear to the parking area. What a huge break….. Danny of LA had vehicle trouble and wanted to be there since 9:00 AM, but things happen, so just go with the flow.
Well as everyone started driving away, I stayed behind with Mike Burns’ gear while Philip drove Mike back to his vehicle to the Burr Ferry Bridge. I waited about 45 minutes, sunburn, hot, tired. But I did not mind…..I would do it again for anyone else. When Philip & Mike made it back, Philip helped Mike pack up his gear and we were to meet everyone at a local restaurant in Jasper, but we arrived too late. Everyone already left. So we three had lunch, shared some more stories and adventures and made a new friend as we parted our ways.
Was this a good trip? Yes indeed it was!
Just getting away from your everyday life style is a vacation in itself. And this Sabine River Trip Adventure is scheduled again for Labor Day Weekend!
Thank you all for all your help, participation and for making this a wonderful weekend!
Photos: Album 1 Album 2
Philip Matticks & Tisha Matticks
ACA Members & HCC Members
|The authors, Philip & Tisha Matticks